Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tough Love

I wondered if what I'm about to share will be understood in the context of being a witness for the Lord. Sometimes, action is taken that would shock other believers and cause a stir, but memories of my Dad preaching at the branch rescue mission of the Mel Trotter in Grand Rapids Michigan, have stamped in my heart his passion for the lost dying without the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The family would go down to the branch mission almost every weekend to hear someone preach or sing. Of course, my Dad would do a lot of the speaking. The service was in a room probably about twenty four feet wide by sixty feet long. There was an isle in the middle, with rows of chairs having six or seven chairs in each row. The men off the street would sit on the left side of the speaker, and supporters of the mission would sit on the right side.

It was a warm night, my Dad took off his suit coat to preach, and was well into his sermon, when suddenly we all heard a bottle crash on the floor. It was against the rules to bring in beer to the service. But, one of the men off the street, brought in his brown sack and tried to drink during my Dad's preaching. What I'm about to describe next is not the normal way you would think a preacher would handle the disturbance in the meeting.

Just as sudden as the breaking of the bottle had stopped the service, my Dad leaped down from the pulpit off a stage about a foot high, and moved quickly to the isle where the man had dropped his bottle and was making some unusual sounds. He moved past two or three men in the isle and grabbed the man by the neck collar. He pulled the man past the others as the man was trying to fight him. Suddenly, Dad took the man's right arm and twisted it behind him, and then picked the man up by the back of his pants and moved him out of the service down the isle to the back door.

The door was opened and Dad threw the man out unto the sidewalk of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. He went back to the pulpit to finish his sermon. He gave an alter call and then the service was over. Dad never mentioned in the service what had happened, or ever tried to justify what he did. I just remember that I wouldn't want to mess with him if I was that person. Instead of asking the street man to come down to the front at an alter call to be saved, he got tossed out the door. That would be hard for some teaching evangelism to use as the way to witness.

About two weeks later, the family went down to the main auditorium of the Mel Trotter for special meetings with different speakers and singers for their big yearly Bible conference. My Dad was going to give his testimony that night. He gave it, and had good response at the end of the service. As the family was getting ready to leave, I saw in the corner of my eye, the man my Dad had tossed out of the branch meeting just two weeks earlier. He was crying and my Dad had his arm around his shoulder witnessing to him. That man wanted forgiveness not just from my Dad but from the Lord Jesus Christ. That night, instead of being tossed out for drinking during a service, the man received Christ as his Savior.

Tough love was used in an unusual way to bring someone to the Lord. It was a way respected by the street, and yet used for the glory of God. Would I recommend this strategy in witnessing? No. But a passion for Christ and love for the word of God was honored by the Lord two weeks later in the life of this man. I just know they are together with the Lord right now.

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